The Taste of Country Cooking: The 30th Anniversary Edition of a Great Southern Classic
by Edna Lewis
Knopf, 268 pp., $22.95
If there were ever a cookbook worth buying for the sheer pleasure of simply reading it, this is it. Ever since its publication in 1976, The Taste of Country Cooking has been beloved for its beauty and worth, often receiving the sort of praise normally reserved for works of literature. Written by Edna Lewis, the granddaughter of freed slaves, it chronicles the rhythms of rural farming life in the first decades of the 20th century. As one of the first cookbooks by an African-American woman to reach a wide audience, it was instrumental in sparking a national interest in genuine Southern country-style cooking.
The chapters take the reader through the agrarian year, with menus typical of each season: "Early Spring Dinner After Sheep Shearing," "Making Ice Cream on a Summer Afternoon," "Fall Breakfast Before a Day of Hunting," "A Dinner of Chicken and Dumplings and Warm Gingerbread." A purity and joy pervade this book, as the delights of fresh peach butter, smothered rabbit, watermelon-rind pickles, panfried oysters, country ham, and corn bread are remembered, and the techniques for preparing them shared. Lewis skillfully alternates between the luminous memories of a young child, for whom every taste and experience is a revelation, and the instructive voice of a grandmother, clearly explaining exactly how to make each dish with a minimum of fuss.
The Taste of Country Cooking is truly an American original. In its pages, Lewis opens the door to a time of dignity and simplicity and a world of connectedness to family, community, and the natural world that sustains us.